Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Riots in Iran

Will there be a violent overthrow of the Iranian Mullahs? Generational Dynamics says 'No.' (25-Jun-03)
Summary Iran is currently experiencing a fairly standard "awakening," similar to America's awakening in the 1960s and 70s, where a generation gap leads to civil unrest, riots and demonstrations -- but no violent overthrow or regime change.

It's such a pleasure to be able to read about pro-American demonstrations for a change, but that's what's been happening in Iran since 1999. Led by college students, Iranians are out in the streets demanding an end to the conservative and restrictive regime of conservative Islamic Ayatollahs.

However, Generational Dynamics shows that this kind of civil unrest will not lead to the kind of massive rebellions or civil wars that are necessary to overthrow a well-established regime. This is an awakening, not a crisis war.

Crisis wars, including massive rebellions and civil wars, tend to come in roughly 80 year cycles. In the 20th century, Iran has had two such large rebellions. The first such period began with a violent civil war called the Constitutional Revolution in 1906-09. The purpose of the rebellious victors was to impose constitutional law on the country, but that plan was delayed as Persia (as it was then called) became a World War I battlefield. The crisis was resolved in 1925 with the overthrow of the old dynasty by Reza Shah Pavlavi, the Shah of Iran, who adopted the new constitution. He was replaced on the throne by his son, Mohammed Reza Shah, in 1941.

The second civil war began in 1978, in the overthrow of the Shah and the installation of Ayatollah Khomeini and an Islamic government in 1979. The crisis continued throughout the 1980s because of the Iran/Iraq war, which resulted in the deaths of almost a million Iranians.

What's happening today is an awakening, not a crisis war. An awakening occurs because of a generation gap -- the generation that lived through the last crisis and imposed austere rules to prevent any further wars is challenged by a younger generation, born after the crisis, of kids who don't see the need for the austere rules and rebel against them.

History shows that awakening periods can be good for a country, by resolving issues and reducing tensions, or they can be bad for a country by exacerbating differences. In the latter case, fault lines are created that continually grow worse and lead to the next civil war several decades later.

Here are two examples:

Which path is Iran following? So far, it's following a path similar to China's, with Falun Gong followers being beaten up and jailed. Iran's leaders today feel that they have to prevent another uprising like the one that began in 1978, but unfortunately they don't understand the generational dynamics which make such a violent rebellion impossible today. If they did, they would let the demonstrations continue, and at some point make some important concession to defuse the situation.

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.